Despite the First American link-up, Boyds is still independent

Scottish firm Boyds has recently hit the headlines by joining a new referral panel set up by the UK arm of US title insurance giant First American (The Lawyer, 18 March). It is one of six firms to sign up to the panel, which is linked to a new product combining title insurance with outsourced due diligence. This is a significant step for a firm with a turnover of less than £5m.
The Edinburgh and Glasgow-based firm has spent the past six months rebranding. A key tool for the new face of Boyds is the client care charter. It states the aims and objectives of the firm, going as far as response-time standards, fee outlines and debriefing plans. For Boyds' sake, let's hope it's realistic.
Part of the long-term strategy has been the promotion of non-legal personnel. It now has high-level marketing, financial and HR personnel influencing the business at board level. Managing partner Robert Gall says: “Since the Andersen aspect came to the fore, we've seen a clear view among our client base that they know who we are; they know we're independent. They know we are able to give them the service that they require and more. We're using non-legal personnel to round the views that we're giving clients.
“The objective for the next couple of years will be to continue with the philosophy of being close to our clients and running ourselves far more efficiently as a business which has its base in law, rather than a traditional legal practice.”
The firm has 15 partners and 17 other fee-earners. All but two of the partners are based in Glasgow, where the firm was founded in 1955. “There's a lot of interchange of personnel between the two offices,” says Gall. “They provide a good base to cover the whole of Scotland. We've built up nicely, particularly over the last three or four years, and have a growing presence in the market.”
The firm's turnover has more than doubled in the past five years with the addition of new clients such as Amex and MJM, manufacturers of the Ultimo Bra.
The majority of new personnel are non-legal, but commercial property partner Alan Simpson joined last November from McClure Naismith. Simpson specialises in mining and minerals law as well as environmental. Emily Wiewiorka was made up to partner on 1 April. She trained with Boyds, went to Masons and then returned to Boyds a year ago. She has recently written on the Data Protection Act for Scottish legal publisher Greens and has a growing reputation in the intellectual property/IT field.
Boyds has recently acted on the purchase of Prestwick Airport, worth £37.4m. It was a form-led consortium and a complicated set of circumstances. The firm has been involved in the outsourcing that Mapley handled for the Inland Revenue and some outsourcing for BT. Another significant deal for Boyds was the £10m Robert Howie & Sons management buyout, which took place last autumn.